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Shock-O-Rama Video Party (AGFA/Something Weird Video) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Shock-O-Rama Video Party (AGFA/Something Weird Video) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: AGFA/Something Weird Video
    Released on: October 25th, 2022.
    Director: Larry Buchanan, Walter Strate, Louise Sherrill, Dale Berry
    Cast: Libby Hall, Robert Short, William Holland, Lili Dawn, Elsie Baker, Leonard Shoemaker, Josette Valague, Dick Eason
    Year: 1961, 1953, 1968, 1964
    Purchase From Amazon

    Shock-O-Rama Video Party – Movie Review:

    During its heyday, Something Weird Video unleashed a torrent of previously tough to find horror and exploitation pictures upon an unsuspecting but appreciative public first on VHS and then on DVD. As film elements for some of those productions have disappeared over time, the label, in partnership with AGFA, have offered up a quartet of curiosities on this Shock-O-Rama Video Party quadruple feature, each of the four main attractions sourced from what would appear to be the only elements left – those S-VHS masters made way back when.

    The Naked Witch:

    Co-directed by Larry Buchanan and Claude Alexander, 1961's The Naked Witch is an hour long quickie that actually spends roughly ten minutes of its running time with text prologue discussing how the movie will tell the story of someone who has given their soul to the devil and how witches are scary before then showing off highlights from the famous painting 'Hell' by Hieronymus Bosch and then hitting us with a quote from Shakespeare.

    After this padding, we get onto the movie proper where we meet a college student (Robert Short) who is studying the roots of a strange town in Texas populated entirely by old school German immigrants. Anytime witchcraft comes up in conversation, the locals clam up or change the subject. However, he does manage to hit it off with lovely local gal Kirska Schöennig (Jo Maryman).

    At any rate, after some time has passed our hero learns that a witch is rumored to have been buried nearby. When he finds her grave and pulls the stake from her chest, the corpse morphs into a beautiful young woman (Libby Hall of Common Law Wife) who, now that she's back from the dead, wants to carry out her mission of revenge against Kirska's ancestors on the current generation of Schöennig.

    Not especially frightening despite the warnings we’re treated too in the overly long prologue, The Naked Witch does at least offer… a naked witch. So it’s got that going for it. The movie is a quirky region film with a lot of the hokey charm that quirky region films tend to offer but there isn’t a whole lot to the plot or much in the way of suspense. The scene in which the witch is resurrected is pretty great in its awfulness, the animation used to make it happen fairly primitive but nothing less than charming. There are some interesting locations used here, including some neat caves that show up in the last fifteen minutes or so, that do give the film a bit of atmosphere.

    Violated:

    Directed by Walter Strate and written by infamous exploitation producer William Mishkin, 1953’s Violated takes place on the mean streets of New York City. Here a streetwalker named Ellen Tinker is murdered in her low rent Manhattan apartment. The cops can't help but notice something weirder than usual about the case - her hair has all been cut off. The cops do what they can, hoping that Bellevue Hospital psychologist named Dr. Jason (Jason Niles) will be able to shed some light on things. A reporter named Gardner (Michael Keane) also hits up Jason for answers. The good doctor's theory is that the killer is out of control and that he is controlled by a strange passion driving him to kill. Or something like that.

    As the story progresses, we meet a few possible suspects - a recently out of prison pedophile named George Mastro (Fred Lambert) and a nudie photographer named Jan Verbig (William Holland). Verbig has a weird relationship with a stripper named Lili Damar (played by Lili Dawn) but is more interested in a model named Susan Grant (Vicki Carlson) who just so happens to be looking for work.

    When another female, devoid of hair, is found dead, the cops turn up the heat but it looks like he's already found his next victim in the form of Lili...

    Mishkin's first production and made a good decade before he and Andy Milligan formed their bizarre partnership, Violated actually features Mishkin himself in a supporting role as Louis, the guy who owns the nudie bar where Lily plys her trade.

    The main attraction, however, is the always winning combination of strippers and vintage New York City footage. We get a fair amount of both in the movie, with some pleasant bump and grind footage thrown in to offer some cheap thrills and the footage of a long, gone Manhattan giving the movie a time capsule quality.

    Plenty sleazy by the standards of its day, the movie was clearly made with a low budget but it’s paced pretty well and the cinematography is decent enough. There’s some tension in the film that, along with the more exploitative elements, keeps things interesting and fun to watch.

    Ghosts Of Hanley House:

    Written and directed by Louise Sherrill and released in 1968, Ghosts Of Hanley House introduces us to a strapping young man named Hank (Leonard Shoemaker) is offered a bet - if he can spend the night at the titular abode, which is, of course, reported to be haunted, then he'll win himself a fancy brand new car.

    A short time later, Hank and a few pals arrive at the house fully intent on staying up all night and winning the prize car. They play a few rounds of cards and generally just hang out, until they learn firsthand that the stories everyone has heard about Hanley House are true and that it is very haunted indeed.

    While the storyline isn't particularly original at all, there are a couple of decent twists towards the end and despite the fact that it was clearly made on a low budget with a cast of unknown or at least lesser known, and very likely local, performers it has a bit of atmosphere. This won't change your life but it's an entertaining enough regional horror picture and while parts of it feel very, very padded, it is reasonably entertaining if not much more than that.

    Note that AGFA points out that this version of the movie is uncut whereas other versions released on home video (mostly via budget public domain offerings) are not. Without an alternate version to compare it to on hand, we can’t speak to what additional footage it contains.

    Passion In The Sun:

    Also known as The Girl And The Greek, director Dale Berry’s 1964 film, Passion In The Sun, begins at an amusement part in beautiful Las Vegas, Nevada. Here a disheveled circus geek type (Mike Butts) makes a daring escape from his unlocked cage and goes on the run.

    When the locals start to complain about someone in the area disturbing the peace, Sergeant Mike Green (played by Berry himself) teams up with a cop named Claude Hill (Bill Rhodes) to lead an investigation into what could possibly be causing such a ruckus in an otherwise typically calm neighborhood. Their investigation doesn't turn up anything or worth, so when call comes in that sends them off to the airport to nab a mobster named Raoul (Dick Eason), they're off on the chase... but they don't get there in time and Raoul escapes with his pals only to then kidnap a stripped named Josette (Josette Valague).

    After assaulting poor Josette in the back of their car in plain view of every motorist that they pass, they head into the desert where Raoul kills his right hand man and runs off with Josette himself. No fool, she frees herself, grabs his briefcase and runs off into the nearby woods to enjoy some a dip in a lake and some topless sunbathing, only to eventually come face to face with the escaped geek! He kills a guy and then she loses all her clothes and he chases her around, eventually getting to a pretty sweet old school amusement park.

    Elsewhere, the strippers Josette was supposed to hook up with are doing their thing at a nudie bar. Rad!

    Definitely the most entertaining movie in this collection, Passion In The Sun was shot in Texas and makes nice use of some fun locations, the amusement park being a big plus in that department. The striptease scenes pad things out more than they need to, but they’re striptease scenes so it’s hard to complain about that too loudly. The makeup used on Mike Butts, who doesn’t appear to have acted in another movie outside of this one, looks like it was made out of leftover scraps from a bargain basement fabric store and a glue stick and the acting is enjoyably clunky across the board. Josette Valague worked with Berry again twice a year later, appearing in The Hot Bed (which he wrote) and Hot Blooded Woman (which he wrote and directed) before then appearing in the obscure The Carolyn Lima Story in 1966 and then vanishing from the film industry.

    Shock-O-Rama Video Party – Blu-ray Review:

    All four films are presented on a region free 50GB disc in AVC encoded high definition framed at 1.33.1 and taken from the Something Weird Video S-VHS master tapes. The Naked Witch, the only color film on the disc, is presented in 1080p as is Violated, while Ghosts Of Hanley House and Passion In The Sun are both presented in 1080i. Video quality won’t blow you away, this is a case of doing what you can with what’s available and what’s available are older tape sources. The familiar SWV bug will appear here and there and detail is soft throughout, but everything is watchable enough if you keep your expectations in check.

    Audio options are offered up on the disc for each movie in 16-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track with optional subtitles in English only. Audio quality isn’t far off from the video quality, it’s a few steps down from reference quality to be sure and limited by the available source material.

    As far as the extras go, The Naked Witch features an archival commentary with director Larry Buchanan and Nathaniel Thompson that, if not always specific to the feature, proves an interesting talk about Buchanan's career. He talks about working for AIP, getting along with various actors he worked with over the years, and a few of the pictures that he's worked on over the years. It's essentially a career overview rather than a scene specific breakdown but it's definitely worth listening to if you're interested in the man's work.

    Also included on the disc are fourteen minutes of “shocked-out trailers and drive-in snipes” which, if you opt to watch the disc via its “all nite slumber party” mode, are spread out between the four features.

    There’s also an insert inside the keepcase that contains a short interview between Claude Alexander, the producer of The Naked Witch, and Something Weird Video’s Mike Vraney from 1994.

    Shock-O-Rama Video Party - The Final Word:

    AGFA/Something Weird Video’s Blu-ray release of Shock-O-Rama Video Party won’t win any awards for presentation quality but it does offer up a lot of entertaining B-movie bang for your buck and with a couple of extras as well. This one is worth it for Passion In The Sun on its own!

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Shock-O-Rama Video Party Blu-ray screen caps!

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